BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The High Court has set March 4 as the opening date for one of Brunei’s most anticipated trials, in which two high-ranking former judicial officers stand accused of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Ramzidah Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Col (rtd) Hj Abdul Rahman and her husband Hj Nabil Daraina Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Badaruddin have pleaded not guilty to 157 charges related to the misappropriation of more than $7 million from the High Court’s Bankruptcy Office, where Ramzidah was deputy official receiver until December 2017.

The cash was allegedly used to buy $3.2 million worth of luxury cars and other high-value assets.

In a pre-trial conference on Wednesday, the prosecution said they were ready to proceed to trial as early as February 4, but defence counsel Sheikh Noordin asked for an adjournment until August, to allow the defendants to engage foreign counsel.

The prosecution objected to a lengthy postponement of the trial, saying it would not be in the public interest.

In a previous report, the Attorney General YB Dato Paduka Hj Hairol Arni Hj Abdul Majid said the public prosecutor was “looking into” engaging external counsel, but has yet to indicate who will represent the prosecution during trial.

Having heard the application from both parties, the court set the trial dates for March 4 until March 30 before Justice Gareth John Lugar-Mawson, judicial commissioner of the Supreme Court.

Justice Lugar-Mawson — who was a Hong Kong High Court judge for nine years before being appointed judicial commissioner of Brunei’s Supreme Court in 2007 —  has presided over some of the country’s most high-profile corruption cases, including the graft trial of a former development minister and a cash-for-tenders scandal which saw the jailing of eight Brunei Shell Petroleum employees.